The Guilty (15)

Sep 18, 2019
Anson Paul

“ A masterclass in cinematic suspense” The Guardian

With a single setting, a real time story and a very small cast, The Guilty is a brilliant genre exercise: a study in tension and sound design and in how to make a thrilling film with a limited tool box.



“…so taut, you almost forget to breathe…Gustav Möller’s nerve-jangling thriller about an emergency police dispatcher and one fateful call uses minimal ingredients to devastating effect.” – The Guardian.

The film is set in real time in two call centre offices. It rapidly enthrals and surprises, as did ‘Locke’ a film we showed a few seasons back. Both films centre upon one man who is speaking on the telephone. We see him and then fill in every other detail ourselves.

Writer and director, Möller explained how powerful this is,
I believe that the strongest images in film, the ones that stay with you the longest; they are the ones, you don’t see.
“I got the idea for the film when I stumbled across a real-life 911 call from a kidnapped woman,” he continues, “The woman was travelling by car, and since she was sitting next to her kidnapper she was speaking in codes. At first, I was just gripped by the suspense of the call, as any listener would. But then I started reflecting on what made it so intriguing.
“Even though I had just listened to a sound recording it felt like I had seen images. I had seen the woman, the car she was in, the road the car was on, and even the kidnapper sitting next to her. I realized, that every single person listening to that phone
call would see different images: a different woman, a different kidnapper, and so on.

“I started thinking: What if you used this idea of mental imagery, in film?”

That is exactly what he did with great effect. Jakob Cedergren is perfectly cast as Asger Holm a man trying his best to do the right thing, to atone for something we understand only towards the end of the film. His physical and vocal intensity is tightly controlled at first as he tries not to be read by his colleagues. Later he loses this tautness and externalizes his fears as he leads us to an ending few can predict.

The film is largely shot with a narrow focus in invasive close up by Jasper Spanning. This and the drab utilitarian lighting force us to focus on Asger’s face and Oskar Skriver’s brilliant sound track. The intensity of the sounds of off-the-hoof panic set against the dead air of the call centre certainly racks up the tension. Angela


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